Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Narwhal’s tusk is super sensitive

By Ella DaviesReporter, BBC Nature

Narwhals' distinctive long tusks are super sensitive, research has found.

The whales are known for their tusks which can reach 2.6m (9ft) in length, earning them comparisons with mythological unicorns.

The tusk is an exaggerated front tooth and scientists have discovered that it helps the animals sense changes in their environment.

Experts suggest males could use the tusks to seek out mates or food.
The results are published in the journal The Anatomical Record.

Dr Martin Nweeia from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, US, undertook the study alongside an international team of colleagues.

Through the years, many theories have tried to explain the function of the narwhal's impressive tusk.

"People have said it's everything from an ice pick to an acoustic probe, but this is the first time that someone has discovered sensory function and has the science to show it," said Dr Nweeia.

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